Healing After Suicide

Author: Carla Stumpf Patton

Carla Stumpf-Patton

For those of us who have lost and mourn a loved one after a suicide, we all are tragically familiar with the, almost universal, feelings associated with suicide-related grief: the if onlys, the would haves, the could haves, the should haves, and of course, the endless, echoing, and unanswerable questions of “WHY…?”  In the beginning, these thoughts and feelings can feel all consuming, and we wonder how and when we will ever survive, let alone get back to life as we once knew it. How could we when we are changed forever by what has happened? Everyone finds themselves asking various questions at different points along their individual journey; for me, the turning point in my healing was when I started asking the challenging questions of myself and where I knew I was the only one who could give myself the answers I was seeking, such as: When and how was I going to ever possibly heal from this life altering loss?  How could I learn to live a life again, filled with a peaceful and joyful heart?  What did I need and who could I trust to support me through this? What role did forgiveness play in my grief, and could it help me to heal my wounded heart?  Could there be others out there who understood my experiences, and if so, how did they heal from this type of loss? Did suicide mean I failed my loved one, or our loved one didn’t love us? How would I talk to my child one day about this all, and what would I say? In what ways, if any, could my husband’s suicide be of service to preventing future loss of life to suicide? Did living, loving, and even laughing again mean I didn’t care enough or I would forget?  Did engaging in the outside world around me mean I was not grieving long enough or in the “right ways”? Was it possible to find some meaning from my own suffering, and a new found purpose for my own life, even in the wake of tragedy and trauma?  

These questions began my personal quest for healing, included anything and everything I could find for myself individually (as well as a parent) that might help. I began seeking out other survivors for support, reading and learning from the experts in the field, maintaining an emotional connection with people in my life, finding healthy coping tools, educating myself about the nature of suicide, trauma, and grief, participating and volunteering in my community for ways I could “give back” in honor of my loved one- and essentially, embracing and living life, one day at a time, through the good days and the not-so-good days.

With every question, I came closer to each answer. With every word spoken or shared, I came closer to understanding my grief.  With every act of compassion, I came close to forgiveness and peace. With every day’s effort, I began to heal my wounded heart.  With every new day of appreciation, I was reminded all I still have in my life.  With every step, I realized I was helping myself, as well as those around me- especially other survivors of suicide. With every new discovery, I learned my journey had, and still does, much to teach me about myself, those I love, and the world around me.  I realize today, with every day that I live my life, I continually honor the memory of my loved one and in doing so, I am embracing all that I still do have to be grateful for.